GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Well-known Christian-identified foster and adoption agency Bethany Christian Services has agreed to abide by the requirements of its contract with the State of Michigan and allow placement in homosexual homes in order to continue serving children in government custody.
The decision comes following word that Attorney General Dana Nessel had reached a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), agreeing to enforce current terms that prohibit State-contracted foster care and adoption agencies from discriminating against prospective parents, which includes turning down same-sex households.
While Bethany Christian Services says that it was not pleased with the outcome, it will comply in order to continue participating in the state program.
“We are disappointed with how this settlement agreement has been implemented by the state government. Nonetheless, Bethany will continue operations in Michigan, in compliance with our legal contract requirements,” it said in a statement.
The organization added that the “mission and beliefs of Bethany Christian Services have not changed.”
According to the Detroit Free Press, Bethany’s national board of directors voted on April 11 to adjust the policy for its Michigan office. The change will not apply to private adoptions.
As previously reported, on a corporate level, Bethany Christian Services is led by Chris Palusky, who formerly served in a leadership capacity at World Vision, and also has been involved with Samaritan’s Purse, CARE and World Relief.
Palusky began serving as president of Bethany Christian Services in January 2018, a position that according to a 990 form posted online, paid his predecessor over $230,000 a year. He lists Rob Bell, Rick Warren, Coldplay, The Police, Sting and U2 among his likes on social media. Under his “religious views” section, he provides a link to a message from Rob Bell. Palusky also characterizes his political views as being in the “center.”
The organization similarly agreed last year to allow placements with homosexuals in order to retain its contract with the City of Philadelphia.
Attorney General Nessel applauded the latest move, writing on Twitter, “Having more adoption agencies which don’t discriminate =s more children adopted into loving, nurturing “forever” homes. Thank you to Bethany Christian Services!”
As previously reported, in 2017, the ACLU filed suit against the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Children’s Services Agency on behalf of four lesbian women who contacted St. Vincent’s Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services in an effort to adopt a child.
Because both organizations operate in accordance with their religious beliefs, they do not place children in homes where there is not both a mother and a father.
“When somebody calls in with interest to become a foster parent or adoptive parent … if they let us know they’re unmarried, or if they’re gay or lesbian, we immediately recommend, make a referral to another agency … for other agencies that provide that service,” Jose Carrera, director of clinical services for St. Vincent Catholic Charities, told legislators in 2015.
Representatives therefore told the women that the agencies could not be of assistance, or that “same-sex couples aren’t our area of expertise.”
The lesbian women stated in their lawsuit that they “object to the use of taxpayer funds to underwrite and endorse religious beliefs to which they do not subscribe.” They also contended that allowing State-hired religious adoption agencies to decline to place children with homosexuals deprives homosexuals “of their rights protected by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
“There is no legitimate government interest served by denying children access to potentially qualified families based on a religious exclusion,” the complaint asserted.
The ACLU consequently sought an injunction to prevent the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Children’s Services Agency from contracting with, or providing taxpayer funding to, any child placement agency that “employ religious criteria in decisions regarding the screening of prospective foster and adoptive parents.”
After Nessel, a lesbian, took office in January, she reviewed the case and determined that the agency could be held legally liable. She decided to reach a settlement with the ACLU, which resulted in a voluntary dismissal of the case.
“Discrimination in the provision of foster care case management and adoption services is illegal, no matter the rationale,” Nessel said in a statement. “Limiting the opportunity for a child to be adopted or fostered by a loving home not only goes against the state’s goal of finding a home for every child, it is a direct violation of the contract every child placing agency enters into with the state.”
A summary of the settlement outlines that Michigan will enforce its current contract language prohibiting discrimination, which it says is consistent with both federal and state law.
Examples of discrimination outlined in the document include “turning away or referring to another contracted agency an otherwise potentially qualified LGBTQ individual or same-sex couple that may be a suitable foster or adoptive family for any child accepted by the agency for contracted services,” and “refusing to place a child accepted by the agency for contracted services with an otherwise qualified LGBTQ individual or same-sex couple suitable as a foster or adoptive family for the child.”
Organizations that commit these delineated violations may have their contract with the State terminated.
While Bethany Christian Services decided to comply with the contract terms that will now be enforced under the settlement, St. Vincent Catholic Charities rather chose to fight the matter. It has now filed a lawsuit, stating that the requirement violates its sincerely-held religious convictions, and thus its First Amendment rights.
“St. Vincent would be forced to close down both its foster care and adoption programs if the state follows through on their threats,” Becket attorney Nick Reaves told the Detroit Free Press. “The vast majority of the work St. Vincent is doing is through its contracts with the state.”
“This means that adoptive parents will have fewer choices and foster children will face longer waits to find permanent homes,” the formal complaint reads.
Proverbs 25:26 says, “A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain and a corrupt spring.”